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Compromise offered on Tampa cell tower

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


TAMPA -- To some neighbors, the cell phone tower Sprint wants to erect in the 3600 block of S West Shore Boulevard amounts to this: a guaranteed 130-foot-tall eyesore.

To other South Tampa residents, it holds a possible answer to what they consider a dangerous lack of cell phone coverage in the area.

Both sides vented their feelings Thursday before the Tampa City Council, which was considering whether to grant a zoning waiver so the tower could be built near a residential neighborhood. Stacy Frank, the attorney for Sprint, said the tower would accommodate four carriers and would be camouflaged as a tree to limit the aesthetic impact.

There are not enough towers to guarantee cell phone coverage in the area, she said.

"Subscribers increase, day in, day out," Frank said.

Several neighbors railed against the proposed tower, however, suggesting it could hurt their property values and should be built somewhere else.

"A cell tower would be an unsightly blight in our neighborhood," Dorothy Hood, 66, who has lived in the neighborhood for 39 years, told the council. She also questioned whether having cell towers nearby was safe.

Michael Graham, 49, a former wrestler whose mother lives in the area, said the cell phone is her primary link to her doctor. If people oppose having a tower, he said, they bear some of the blame if someone needs to reach 911 and cannot.

"If they want to live in a city, cell service is a way of life," Graham said.

Courtney Spencer, 27, said she was held at gunpoint during a home invasion three years ago. She said she tried to call 911 on a cell phone but could not get through.

"You do not know what fear is until you have a gun pointed at your face," she said.

With the council seemingly as divided as the crowd, Council member Bob Buckhorn suggested a compromise: Build a 100-foot tower, no taller than another communications tower on the site, to accommodate two carriers. The council asked the city legal department to prepare such an ordinance to present next week. Under the ordinance, the current tower, which has been used to dispatch trucks, would be removed.

- Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337.

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